Post-punk powerhouse The Gossip has three members, although you’d be mistaken for thinking there is only one with the reams of newsprint devoted to frontwoman Beth Ditto.
With Ditto making news by calling pop starlet Katy Perry a boner dyke and offensive to queer culture with her hit I Kissed A Girl, it’s no wonder The Gossip ruffle feathers and get thrashed around the tabloid press in the way they do.
Aside from the sledging we’ve come to love, The Gossip’s long-awaited new album, the ironically titled Music for Men, is finally out.
With accolades for their 2008 live album, Live In Liverpool, and praise as one of the best live acts in the world, The Gossip have the credentials to dish the dirt.
Fans will be pleased the band sticks to their glittery dance, post-punk sound on the new album although lyrically it tugs a few more heartstrings.
An easygoing Hannah Blilie, who sits behind the drum kit, took time out to speak with the Star ahead of the Australian release.
Playing all these new songs will be very exciting for us because we’ve toured on the last ones for so long, a jovial Blilie chirped down the phone.
All the lyrics on the album are very personal and reflect what we’ve been going through in the past few years.
It’s quite a positive record. There are a lot of love songs on it.
Blilie is the album’s cover grrl in all her queer glory. The image is part subversive, part cheeky joke from Ditto who came up with the title, Music for Men, after attending a friend’s gig and being heckled by men in the audience.
She was at a performance of a woman-fronted band and was watching her friend play. There were all these men in the audience heckling and trying to talk to her and taking up a lot of space and making their presence known. She was like -˜argh -” so annoying, this is music for men’, Blilie said.
They think it’s all for them and they’re taking up so much space and she thought that’s a really good album title, it has a good ring to it. She thought it would be interesting as a feminist sort of queer-identified band to have an album called Music for Men.
The Gossip’s unapologetic (and real) queerness is a refreshing change from their mainstream pop counterparts. At that stage virtually unknown, the band thumped miraculously to earth and bellowed their way onto the airwaves in 2006 with Standing In the Way of Control.
The band now looks set to hit Australian soil at the end of the year during festival season. Perhaps this time around, first single release Heavy Cross will be this year’s Gossip anthem.
Another track, Men In Love, an ode, quite simply to -˜men in love, with each other’ is an endearingly camp gay love song.
This year’s anthem for gay pubs and clubs across Australia?
Yeah, oh my God, I can’t wait, Blilie laughed.
We wanted to have a song that was really cheesy and celebratory and just naming it, being so blunt, men in love, with each other -” you can’t get any more blunt than that.
While perhaps not getting the same press for giving lip, Blilie is also no stranger to sticking the boots into the mainstream and also has Perry in her sights.
We were talking the other day about that Katy Perry song I Kissed a Girl and how annoying it is and so fake, being lesbian chic for the sake of turning on men.
It’s such a straight, stupid interpretation of gayness and how huge that song got and how annoying. I guess we respond to that with a real gay song [Men in Love].
It wasn’t a deliberate response but we started thinking about it and thought this is our I Kissed a Girl, but it’s real gay music made by real gay people.
With Ditto constantly in the headlines, how does Blilie cope with the tabloid pressure cooker?
I think it’s kind of the dark side of what we’re doing. It’s annoying having paparazzi follow you around to gigs -” back at home they don’t really follow us but having that looming over you all the time in London is very strange. It sucks. There’s nothing good to say about that. We just try not to read anything in the tabloids because it’s all trash, she said.
There’s no way you’re going to be as out and loud and political as we are and not have people hate us or hate Beth. I think being yourself all the time and not paying attention to any of that fuckin’ tabloid bullshit is the way you stay positive and sure of yourself.
On a positive note, much has been made of the fact that the band worked on the album with super producer Rick Rubin at the Shangri-La studios in Malibu.
Rubin approached the group after seeing one of their gigs, describing it as one of the best he’d seen -” praise indeed from someone who’s worked with Johnny Cash, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and a who’s who list a mile long.
The praise is reciprocated.
Rick was really amazing and nurturing and he was really supportive of what we had and the direction we were already going. It was really nice, a really positive experience.
We couldn’t have had a better producer for the record, it was like magical. He has this great nurturing energy. It’s really awesome. He didn’t try to push us into any direction we weren’t comfortable with.
An unassuming Blilie said she expects modest success with the new album in the US despite the band’s hype in Europe.
British music rag NME recently claimed the band was the greatest punk rock-‰’n’ roll disco soul band on the planet.
I guess it’s great when anyone says you’re the best live band, it’s a compliment, but it’s not like -˜oh yay we’re accepted by the NME now, that’s awesome’. We don’t pay much attention to papers and the press anyway, because it really sucks you out to read that stuff.
I don’t see success in the way that we’ve had it in Europe in America and that’s just fine with me.
With Rick Rubin being the producer, there’ll be some change there but I still don’t think the mainstream market is going to be that accepting of us because we’re a little too freaky for them -” a little too fat, a little too queer. Mainstream America is still very closed-minded and you have to fit into this very narrow kind of aesthetic and sound to be accepted and popular.
If the US has any sense, Ditto would knock the chart socks off Perry. Time, however, really does tell -” fast forward 20 years and it’ll be, Katy who?
info: The Gossip’s album Music for Men is out now through Sony Music.